Dr John Garang remembered
By Majok Nikodemo Arou
"I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years have brought to you CPA in a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience bush life. When time comes to vote at referendum, it is your golden choice to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second class citizens in your own country? It is absolutely your choice."
Dr John Garang De Mabior
May 15, 2005
July 30, 2005, will remain as one of the saddest days for the Sudanese people at large and the marginalised people of the
Sudan in particular. It is the day mystery and fate combined to conspire against the outstretched dreams of the marginalised people of
Sudan. They were robbed of a man, who dedicated his prime life to fight for justice, freedom and equality.
Dr Garang strove tirelessly to achieve meaningful citizenship in which all the Sudanese, whose majority suffered marginalisation for long, to be on equal footing with the ruling clique, solely responsible about the woes still plaguing the Sudanese people today.
On his third death anniversary, some people squarely put the blame on destiny and fate probably due to magnitude of the loss and bewilderment. They wished if fate had spared his life for five or six more years, he would have made substantial changes. Garang seemed to have been somewhat aware about what would happen to his life when reminded of security concerns ahead of his historic trip to
Khartoum on July 8, 2005, where he was greeted by huge cheering crowds. According to his closest aides, Garang remarked: 'I led thousands of youth into the battles in which they fell, while fighting for freedom, why should I decline the trip'.
Dr Garang was a realist who believed that the SPLM vision would not be achieved within a short time, as the ruling clique or stakeholders of the Old Sudan would fight like wounded animals to retain the status quo. He warned that challenges were ahead, but he was prophetically and emphatically resolved that 'the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) would change
When some Western mediators attempted to convince him during the peace talks in
Kenya that one country should not have two armies, Garang insisted that why should he sign an agreement which would be dishonoured tomorrow.
Garang vowed not to sign any agreement that would not put the SPLA in the equal footing with the Khartoum Army. Due to that entrenched position, the 'Security Arrangements Protocol' was born. Bitter memories of the past kept the SPLA top brass to enthusiastically back Garang's position in that respect.
Emerging from long marathon talks, Garang toured many towns (counties) and villages (payams) across
Southern Sudan. Those visits were culminated with the historic visit to
Khartoum on Aug. 8, 2008.
Khartoum residents staged an unprecedented welcome to tearful Garang, who was moved by that huge crowd. It is unequivocally clear now, that historic reception was actually a farewell and gratitude to the hero. At Sahtul Khadra (green square), he delivered the first silent speech ever to the waves of crowds, who actually came to see and greet him. He waved to them and so did they. The most notable placard in that historic occasion was '
Darfur, Darfur Dr Garang'. It was a simple and direct message that the people of
Darfur should be included in the peace process. What if the NCP heed the message of Garang that the SPLA/NCP should send joint force to
Darfur ahead of any peace talks there?!
Sudan would have avoided UN force and people of
Darfur would have had good peace, and El Beshir would have escaped the ICC indictments too. What a great chance squandered!
Following his tragic death, the SPLA/M took a remarkable decision by electing the then deputy SPLA/M Chairman Commander Salva Kiir Mayardit, as the new Chairman of the SPLA/M, to immediately fill the leadership gap at crucial and tragic moment. That smooth power transition consoled to greater degree the SPLM supporters and friends across the globe- to the chagrin of ill-wishers who hurried to paint dim scenario of potential power struggle within the ranks of the SPLM. However, after paying a glowing tribute to Dr Garang, Kiir pledged in the funeral in Juba on Aug. 05, 2005, that the SPLM ' is a vehicle without reverse gear', stressing that the SPLM will remain in its main course of New Sudan.
The third death anniversary of Dr Garang is marred with Luis Moreno Ocampu's sword hanging over the Sudanese President Omer Hassan Ahmed El Bashir, over war crime charges in
Darfur. Getting frantic about the ICC charges, the ruling partner National Congress Party (NCP) embarked on serial blackmail of the SPLM: 'either the SPLM helps to avert the ICC charges on El Beshir, or it (NCP) can derail the CPA'. On their turn, the SPLM officials cautiously advised the NCP to address the issue legally instead of confrontation with the ICC, which could have adverse repercussions.
Three years later, the scenario looks dismal for the CPA, as the ruling (NCP) has gradually begun to backtrack on implementation of the main clauses of the CPA even before Ocampu threats surfaced. The NCP officials have indulged on selective implementation of the CPA as per schedules seen favourable to them. The cases in point are: Abyie issue, demarcation of the borders between the North and South, allocation of the oil revenues, exercise of popular consultation in both
Mountains and the Blue Nile regions and implementation of the security arrangements in the Blue Nile and
Mountains. While Garang was still in
Khartoum after he has sworn in as First Vice President of Sudan, the NCP declared they were opposed to the Abyie Borders Commission (ABC) report. He replied the ABC was binding to both parties as prior commitment
It appears that the very mindset, which stalled and abrogated previous peace agreements in the past, is still at play in
Khartoum. Abel Alier, former Vice President of Sudan, hit the nail on the head when he wrote a book titled: 'Too Many Agreements Dishonoured'. The title of his book and the Khartoum Peace Agreement signed by Dr Riek Machar, Vice President of GoSS with
Khartoum in 1997, were vigorously cited by Dr Garang to build rational case during Naivasha peace talks that
Khartoum was fond of dishonouring the agreements.
Away from the two ruling partners, Saddiq Al Mahdi, of Ummah Party, has vowed to overturn the CPA either through his ambiguous 'popular conference' or through brewing current alliance with El Bashir's NCP. The more he (Saddiq) gets closer to the NCP, the more the latter distances itself from the CPA. Late Garang repeatedly stressed that CPA has enemies- may be he was referring to El Mahdi and the likes. Unlike other Sudanese politicians, El Mahdi did not show up in
Khartoum to pay tribute to the late Garang. However, former Sudanese Vice President, General Joseph Lagu, who led the Anyanya 1 in the first civil war and signed the Addis Agreement with the former Sudanese President Ja'far Mohammed Nimeri in 1972, advised the SPLA/M leaders in his interview with Sudanic Magazine in March-April issue: 'keep the SPLA strong; the NCP cannot abrogate the CPA'. An advice and golden truth shared by the SPLM supporters.
Garang had believed active involvement of the SPLM in the Government of National Unity (GoNU) could pay dividends, as it would further cement the role of the SPLM as a strong partner. No doubt, the NCP resented and is still shirking such participation. It even gets nervous to see it materialising. The NCP wants to see the SPLM entangled in the huge devastation of war in the South, and hence forgets the marginalised people of
Sudan. But as the drama of ICC unfolds, the NCP now earnestly pleads the active role of the SPLM in averting the ICC indictments against El Beshir. One wonders where the NCP wants the SPLM to move actively against the ICC- in Juba or
One question lingers; could the SPLM bail out their partner the NCP, which now and then implies and at certain point to plunge the country into abyss out of revenge or may be through uncontrolled rage? The position taken by the Arab League and African Union is to address the ICC indictment legally and negotiate deferment of the charges against El Beshir for at least a year - a position hinted so far by the SPLM. Nonetheless, the NCP feels the SPLM should take similar hard-line position.
For the first time in years, genuine consensus seems to be developing among the Sudanese political spectrum on setting up the roadmap, whose key is fair resolution of
Darfur conflict, fair implementation of CPA and smooth transition to democracy. Of course, this can work should it be crowned with fair internationally supervised elections.
Beyond the shadow of doubt, new political landscape is unfolding in
Sudan. Should the NCP choose to confront the ICC,
Sudan may slip into quagmire. Here alone comes the role of statesmen and parties with agenda to bail the country out. History demonstrates that countries led by inspired leaders alone survive in such grand turmoil.
Amid those rough challenges, Garang would be remembered for his farsightedness, consistency and sustenance of the struggle for over two decades though at high price. When the SPLA underwent heavy defeats in 1990s, Garang remained confident, believing that the SPLA would turn the tide someday. It happened as he projected. When we remember Garang, we also remember the gallant SPLA officers and soldiers who fell in the course of the struggle. We remember too other non SPLMers, who were killed in the course of just cause.
Two months ahead of his tragic death, late Garang declared in Rumbek that his mission was accomplished. He threw the ball into the court of the living patriots to continue the struggle. Now it is high time for those patriots to flex muscles should CPA be at stake.